Chronic Lyme borreliosis at the root of multiple sclerosis—is a cure with antibiotics attainable?
Apart from its devastating impact on individuals and their families, multiple sclerosis (MS) creates a huge economic burden for society by mainly afflicting young adults in their most productive years. Although effective strategies for symptom management and disease modifying therapies have evolved, there exists no curative treatment yet.
Worldwide, MS prevalence parallels the distribution of the Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi, and in America and Europe, the birth excesses of those individuals who later in life develop MS exactly mirror the seasonal distributions of Borrelia transmitting Ixodes ticks. In addition to known acute infections, no other disease exhibits equally marked epidemiological clusters by season and locality, nurturing the hope that prevention might ultimately be attainable.
As minocycline, tinidazole and hydroxychloroquine are reportedly capable of destroying both the spirochaetal and cystic L-form of B. burgdorferi found in MS brains, there emerges also new hope for those already afflicted. The immunomodulating anti-inflammatory potential of minocycline and hydroxychloroquine may furthermore reduce the Jarisch Herxheimer reaction triggered by decaying Borrelia at treatment initiation. Even in those cases unrelated to B. burgdorferi, minocycline is known for its beneficial effect on several factors considered to be detrimental in MS.
Patients receiving a combination of these pharmaceuticals are thus expected to be cured or to have a longer period of remission compared to untreated controls. Although the goal of this rational, cost-effective and potentially curative treatment seems simple enough, the importance of a scientifically sound approach cannot be overemphasised. A randomised, prospective, double blinded trial is necessary in patients from B. burgdorferi endemic areas with established MS and/or Borrelia L-forms in their cerebrospinal fluid, and to yield reasonable significance within due time, the groups must be large enough and preferably taken together in a multi-centre study.